things i make for *ME*: Frisson!

Finished Frisson!

Blocking worked wonders! I’m really delighted with this new shawl, my first FO of 2015. Details below:

Ravelry Project Page
Pattern: Frisson
Yarn: A Piece of Vermont Yarn & Fiber Superwash Merino/Bamboo/Nylon Sock (I’ve had it in my stash for ages!)
Needles: size 4 circulars
Time to knit: about 3 weeks

Frisson turned out lovely!

I’m on a bit of a mission this year to add to my collection of handknit neck-adornment devices, and this fits the bill nicely. Purple is a color I’ve been wearing more and more of, especially since M was born, but I didn’t have any purple accessories. I do now! This purple merino/bamboo/nylon sock yarn has been sitting around in my stash for YEARS now, stubbornly refusing to turn into socks (perhaps because I’ve pretty much stopped knitting socks, eh?), and really, I think that’s all for the better, because this stuff feels really nice around my neck. Very silky! I’m not sure I’d like it as socks, frankly.

Froze my butt off taking photos, but I'm really happy about my new shawl :)

I do worry a little that given how petite I am, these long biased triangle shawls end up being a little overwhelming on me. It’s actually a bit shocking how much shawl came out of a single skein of sock yarn – I suppose the eyelet sections help with that! So I think I may focus my attentions on smaller neck-adornment devices – perhaps a cowl will be next, but whether it’s one from a pattern or one that I make up remains to be seen.

Last photo, I promise!
Cold, but happy, in my Frisson

But I do get a lot of wear out of my Icarus shawl, which is a more traditional triangle shape. I often wear it with the point in front (though I fold the top edge down to get a sort of cowl-effect with it), and I get lots of compliments on it. So perhaps another more traditional triangle shawl would be a good thing to make. If you’re a friend of mine on Ravelry, you might’ve seen me go on a bit of a shawl/cowl/scarf queueing spree over the last few days. I’m particularly excited about the 54 Rue du Chateau collection that came out this week. How gorgeous are those shawls?! I think my favorite might be Tanguy, but they’re all pretty amazing. Who knows when or if I’ll ever knit one of them, but gosh, they’re lovely.



On Monday, I bound off my Frisson shawl:

Finished my Frisson. It's curling like mad, which I hope blocking will resolve. (Don't feel up to blocking it tonight, though.)
(wearing an unblocked shawl and forced smile, because migraine)

Boy, did it ever need blocking! It was curling like mad, which I can only hope that blocking resolves. It’s still currently drying, so no “truly finished” photo yet (maybe this weekend I can take some with my “real” camera, which is getting to be so old that the photos it produces only outshine those from my iPhone when there’s really good light).

I ran into a bit of a problem towards the end, when the Chiagoo needles I was using (which I purchased at the LYS up in Winona, because I’d forgotten to bring appropriately-sized needles on the trip with me!) started splintering and catching on every stitch!

Not a fan of the way this Chiagoo needle is splintering and catching on every stitch :( Gotta find my other size 4 circs and switch.

Thankfully, I’m a bit of a needle-hoarder, and had a spare (Knitpicks) size 4 circular (well, actually, size 4 tips for my interchangeable set) at home, so it wasn’t too hard to get back on track. The Knitpicks Rainbow Wood needles remain my favorites – nice and pointy, and smooth, and I’ve never had one splinter before. (But I also haven’t tried a huge variety of needles, so there may be even better ones out there. I know I can’t use nickel-plated needles, because I have one heck of a nickel allergy!).

I’m pretty excited to see what the shawl looks like once it’s finished blocking. I’m hoping it works well for me – I could really use a purple “neckwarming device” as part of my wardrobe. (You’ll recall that I’m making an effort to use my knitting and sewing skills to craft new, useful wardrobe items this year).

In related news, I’ve also made some (very small) progress towards my goal to sew things for Madrigal. I don’t recall how I came across it, but this Mini Hudson Pant pattern from True Bias is pretty much the perfect pant for M – it’s loose around the waist/bottom, but snugger (and banded) at the bottom so that she’s not tripping on it. And it has POCKETS! What remains to be seen is whether I can actually sew her a pair – I’ve never sewn with knits before, but it’s something I’ve been wanting to tackle, so I do plan to give it a try soon.

To close this post, last night M decided that she wanted to work on a “project”. This usually means that she wants to get out the bucket full of craft supplies that she got from her friend Sasha for her birthday, and use a glue stick to glue pompoms to construction paper. And so that’s what she did. This time, though, she told me that she was making this project “for EVERYONE”, and insisted that I take a photo of it to share it with my friends. So, dear friends, here is M’s project:

Madrigal says she "made this project to share with EVERYONE" and insisted I take a photo to share with my friends :)

It’s for you! Enjoy!

hello, 2015

Frisson-in-progress. On the second-to-last point now.

I’m finally a little bit recuperated from the events detailed in my last post. Not all the way, though – I can’t lie, that drive (a whole week ago now) really messed me up, to the point where I don’t think I can go to Knitting Guild tonight because it’s snowing today (not even hard, but still), and that would involve driving in the dark in the snow and…nope. I don’t wanna. Not yet. Anyway, my Spring Semester courses start on Thursday this week, so I’m spending the early part of this week getting ready. Preparing Blackboard and Google Drive, updating my protocol for the pedagogical research I’m doing, that sort of stuff. This transition into Spring Semester is always a little rough for me – there’s the seasonal loss of light, of course, which I don’t handle very well, and I also just don’t think that Winter Break is enough time for me to recharge, especially if it involves the kind of travel that it has these last several years. I was talking to a writing program buddy about this, and she said that when her kids were little, they just didn’t travel, and made folks come to them. Alas, we’ve been the ones going to everyone these past few years, because for both A and I, our parents and our sibling live very near each other (in his case, in OH, and in mine, in MN/WI), so it “makes sense” for us to be the ones who travel. And, well, our siblings have little ones, too, so SOMEONE with little ones is going to be traveling. And it’s always us. C’est la vie. But not next year.

Snowy day through our funny little window.
snowy day through our funny little window

The New Year is always a little weird for me, because my brain is so strongly tied to the academic calendar that I get confused when everyone’s setting goals and making plans and such – that’s something I tend to do in late August, not in January! A lot of the folks I know have been setting “intentions” this year, and choosing a particular word to encapsulate them. To absolutely no one’s surprise, I like words. If I had to choose a word that reflects the intention with which I started this academic year (because seriously, that’s my “new” year!), it’d be “LIVE”. Which sounds totally lame – haven’t I been living all along? But this is the first year when I’ve felt like my life really belonged to me. I know, I know, that sounds idiotic. But like a lot of folks who go straight from high school to college to graduate school, I ended up in this weird place where my life was defined by the hoops I needed to jump through – my life WAS the hoops. But there are no hoops anymore. I am free from hoop-jumping forever and ever. There could’ve been more hoops, if I’d gone for a tenure-track job, but fortunately for me, around the time when I was deciding to have a baby, I started to truly see the academic hoop-jumping for what it was for me, and decided I didn’t want to be on that treadmill anymore. It took awhile, as these things do, but this year, with my Ph.D and my new (non-TT) teaching job, I feel like my life truly belongs to me. So I am going to LIVE it. I’m still sorting out for myself exactly what that means, but life definitely feels different to me this year (where by year, I mean since August. Sorry. Academia warps you!)

I’ve been trying to take a very relaxed approach to goal-setting these days. By which I mean I don’t really make a big deal out of setting them, and never set them firmly in stone. I know that goals can be a tremendous motivator for a lot of people, but they actually tend to de-motivate me in a weird way – I start doing something just because it’s the goal, and the intrinsic joy and interest and motivation get sucked out of it. (It’s that hoop-jumping business again, you know?). And it becomes something to bludgeon myself with, if I fall short, so the whole process of goal-setting and goal-reaching becomes incredibly fraught and stressful. And well, I’m working on being kinder to myself (thanks, DBT!), but let’s face it, I definitely don’t need to add pressure to achieve particular goals to the picture, given my own tendency to use any perceived failure to achieve them as fodder for the self-loathing mill. I’m also finding it much easier to just live, and experience the joy in life, if I go in with fewer expectations (for me, goals are one form of expectation), and more acceptance. There’s tremendous freedom there, and I think that I’ll thrive on it. It doesn’t mean I’m going to be utterly inert – I mean, I’m the sort of person who can’t really sit still and whose mind is always churning with ideas, so I’m not worried about taking my foot off the gas pedal of goal-setting a bit. It’ll be interesting to figure out ways to give myself the structure I definitely need without the pressure that I definitely don’t need. Expect more musings on that front this year!

There are a few new things in store for 2015 (despite everything I said about it not being my “new year”). One is that I’m not going to try to do a 365 photo project this year. I just want to cut back – photos end up feeling like an obligation, and I want to let photos be something that call me to take them, not something I force, you know? I’m sure I’ll still take a ton of photos because that’s how I roll, but every day? Probably not. I’ve also joined with a group of crafty folks (started by my friend Annika) who are hoping to make their own clothing this year. So I do have some goals along those lines, though (as I said above), these are low-key, gentle goals. Intentions, we’ll call them. No pressure. I’m hoping to sew a few 100 Acts of Sewing Dress #1 dresses for myself, knit some more shawls/cowls/etc to add interest (and warmth!) to my outfits this winter, and hopefully, finish a few cardigans for myself (specifically: my Lopi Affection in blues and greens, a Little Waves cardigan in purple, and a grown-up Elle Melle in greys; maybe a Stripes! cardigan, also). I also want to make some clothes for M – some pinafores, and loose legging/sweatpants (she likes things to be loose around her bottom and legs, but banded/elasticized at the ankle, and it’s hard to find that except at places like Hanna Andersson and while their clothes are nice, they are also EXPENSIVE). I have been toying with the idea of releasing a series of parent-child knitting patterns from the collection I’ve been slowly developing since M was born. I haven’t worked out how I’d do that, yet, but it would include things like Stripes! cardigans, Garter Rib cardigans, the Sullivan sweater I knit for Wool People (plus a not-yet-knit kid’s tunic based on that design), a re-release of Vahtralehed along with a kid version, maybe a pattern for that Cobbler sweater I knit for M last year (and a grown-up version)…gosh, I basically have a book worth right there, don’t I? We’ll see what happens with that.

Winter Break 2014, Part 4: the part that was actually in 2015

(Or: the VERY eventful return home!)

On January 3rd, we hopped back on Amtrak to head back to Chicago, to catch our flight back to Ohio, where we’d left our car. This Amtrak ride was even better than the first one, because this time, it was daylight during the entire ride! M loved watching the bluffs and river go by out the window – it is SUCH a gorgeous part of the country!

Watching the river go by. #winterbreak2014 #amtrak

Another benefit to Amtrak (over plane travel) is the copious amount of legroom, which M definitely enjoyed:

Taking advantage of copious Amtrak legroom. #winterbreak2014 #amtrak

We did some “collaborative monster drawing” on the trip, too. The way it works is that M doodles the general outline, and then tells me what features to add to it. We end up with such cute creatures!

Collaborative monster-drawing on the train. #winterbreak2014

M was SUCH a wiggle-bean on this trip!

Tired mama, wiggly kiddo, on a train. It's gonna be a LONG day. #winterbreak2014

But she did eventually zonk out:

She's FINALLY out. Thank goodness...this nap was clearly needed. #winterbreak2014

It was a dreary day in Chicago when we arrived – on time! We’d deliberately chosen the last Southwest flight of the day, because you kind of have to assume that Amtrak will be late and plan accordingly (unless you overnight in Chicago), so we knew we’d have a long wait if the train actually was on time.

In Chicago! (Walking to the Quincy stop from Union Station) #winterbreak2014

We’d hoped to kill time by eating at one of the M-friendly places we knew were on the way between Union Station and the Orange Line stop (or by eating in Union Station), but weirdly, all of the veggie-friendly sandwich-shop type places (e.g. Au Bon Pain, Panera) were closed. At 3:30pm on Saturday. WHY?? Isn’t that when a lot of people eat out? So…we trucked along to Midway, where M enjoyed a very overpriced yogurt parfait (and we had some crappy pizza).

Somebody's much happier now that we found her a yogurt cup! #midwayairport #winterbreak2014

And then our flight got delayed. Repeatedly. It eventually stopped when it was delayed until 11:10pm. So…we had a LOT of time to kill in the airport, with a very hyper, overtired 3 year old. This was…exhausting. She made snow angels…

"Making snow angels" on the floor at Midway. #winterbreak2014 #midwayairport

…watched more videos…

Watching video way past her bedtime at our new gate, because today is just that sort of day. #winterbreak2014 #midwayairport

…and ran up and down the moving walkways:

Now burning off crazy overtired energy by running up and down the moving walkways. #winterbreak2014 #midwayairport

Gosh, did she ever love doing that. Our gate got switched to one all the way across the airport, so we had to get the three of us and all our bags there, and between that and all of the moving walkway-running, according to my iPhone, I covered over 3 miles with M just in Midway airport. TIRED! And then we didn’t get to my in-law’s house until 2am. We’d been considering driving right back to NY the next morning (despite our original plan to stay one more day), but decided to stick to the original plan because of how late we got in that night. This turned out to be a BIG MISTAKE. (And not just because my in-laws were out with friends the vast majority of the day, so we didn’t even really see them.)

So, we drove home on the 5th. It started out lovely enough…sunny, but very cold.

9:33am - buckled up and on our way #adayinthelifephotochallenge #winterbreak2014

M did some in-seat yoga:

10:06am - Namaste. Doing some in-seat yoga :) #adayinthelifephotochallenge #winterbreak2014

And then…our car died. In the middle of I-71, in between Columbus and Cleveland, in a section where there was minimal shoulder, which we barely got into anyway, so we spent the next hour having semis roaring past inches from the side of our car, as we got colder, and colder, and colder, waiting for AAA to pick up the phone and get us towed. This is apparently the face I make when I am very tired, very cold, and also rather terrified of being sideswiped by an inattentive driver:

11:30am - shit. Our car died. On the freeway. We barely made it into the shoulder and trucks are zooming past inches away and it's terrifying and we're waiting for AAA to answer the damned phone.

It turned out to be our alternator, which was fortunately a relatively quick fix and not horrendously expensive (not cheap, either, though…goodness, this trip ended up costing a fortune!)…but we did lose 4 hours, which turned out to be critical, because it put us getting into the Erie area just as it was getting dark, and as a lake-effect snowstorm struck.

4:10pm - and now poor A has to drive through snow. We're gonna be so happy to get home tonight! #winterbreak2014 #adayinthelifephotochallenge

It just kept getting worse, and worse, and worse, until we were driving essentially blind. This was the most terrifying driving we have EVER done (A was driving, and my job was to keep him from panicking and help him navigate – while dealing with a very cranky 3 year old backseat partner) and I never ever EVER want to do it again. Whiteout conditions, in the dark, with semis almost hitting us several times as we struggled to even see our lane. Our windshield kept icing up (despite us cooking ourselves with the heat blasting) because of the VERY cold temperatures – which are kind of bizarre in combination with snow. Because I was taking part in the “#adayinthelifephotochallenge” on Instagram/Twitter, my friends could see that I was getting more and more terrified as we went off into the shoulder repeatedly for de-icing/de-panicking/just because we ended up there (like when I took this screenshot of our location on Google Maps in lieu of an hourly photo):

5:50pm - where we pulled off. We are now on the way to @noirbettie's sister's house to stay the night. #winterbreak2014 #adayinthelifephotochallenge

I am so very grateful to my friend Annika, who saw my posts about being terrified, and hooked us up with her sister in Jamestown, who very kindly fed us pizza and put us up for the night (thank you thank you thank you!). I do not even know what we would’ve done if we’d had to stay on I-90 but given how many extremely close calls we had with semis, I suspect we would’ve been in a ditch or worse. We drove home the next morning, and while we were absolutely wrung out at that point, I am just so grateful. The community of knitters online is so wonderful and we really take care of each other. I hope I can pay this forward at some point. (Other things for which I am intensely grateful: rumble strips, which were the only thing kindasorta keeping us on the road, at least when we could feel them through the accumulating snow, and Google Maps on my phone, which helped me help A know which way the road was bending when we were driving nearly blind.)

It’s good to be home. We’d already been leaning towards spending our next winter break here at home, and now we’re sure of it. We will not travel AT ALL next winter – not for Thanksgiving, and not for the Winter holidays. I think we’ll probably make winter travel an every-other-year sort of thing, because it’s just not how I want to spend every single winter break that I have. The time with family was lovely, but the travel itself left me utterly drained instead of recharged, which isn’t how I hoped to start off 2015. (On the plus side, I do not seem to have pneumonia this year, so I’m off to a better start than 2014! That’s sort of a low bar though, eh?)

Winter Break 2014, Part 3: New Year


On the 27th, we got up nice and early and headed to the airport for the first leg of our trip to Minnesota to visit my family. M was a very helpful little traveler (at first, at least!), and even carried her own luggage!

Little traveler. #winterbreak2014

The flight was pretty uneventful, thankfully!

Plane ride! (We're at Midway, now). #winterbreak2014

After that, we took the Orange Line from Midway to Union Station, where we had a few hours to kill waiting for our train. We had storytime…

Storytime in the Great Hall (Union Station) #winterbreak2014

…dancetime (M loved the Great Hall!)…

Little girl in a Great Hall.

…and snacktime:

Snack time at Union Station. #winterbreak2014

Next up was the train ride, which M really loved!

On the train! #winterbreak2014

We had so much fun looking out the window together!

Trains are fun! #winterbreak2014

She also loved having the freedom to take walks…the train is certainly slower than flying, but so much more family-friendly! (And really, given our destination, it ISN’T slower than flying, since my parents live over 2 hours from the airport we’d need to fly into).

I was worried on our way up, because it had been so strangely warm, and one of the things M was *really* excited about was the prospect of learning to use snowshoes with grandpa! But fortunately (for us, at least), they did get some snow the day before we arrived, so the next day, we went snowshoeing!

Ready for snowshoeing! #winterbreak2014

She was very excited to take her first snowshoe steps!

First snowshoe steps! #winterbreak2014

And she had a lot of fun with her snowshoe instructor (grandpa!)

With grandpa, her snowshoe instructor :) #winterbreak2014

The next day, we made homemade peanut butter together. M *loves* to help in the kitchen (and grandma and grandpa even have a Learning Tower!), and she was especially proud to be able to push the correct buttons on the food processor.

Making peanut butter with grandma.

Grandma and grandpa also have a fireplace, so we got to spend some warm cuddly time next to it.

Hanging out by the fire :) #winterbreak2014

New Year’s Eve was pretty uneventful, but we did go down to the library (gosh, I miss this library! I have so many fond memories here), where M got to work with letter-tracing:

Practicing letters at the Winona Public Library (I miss this library a lot!) #winterbreak2014

They also had a table still set up (from a party at noon, which we didn’t go to) for kids to make and take their own noisemakers to celebrate!

Happy New Year!! #omg2015

But really, New Years Eve when you’re 3 is just another day :)

On New Years Day, we drove up to Eau Claire, Wisconsin, to visit my brother and his family. Oddly, I don’t seem to have taken any photos while we were there, but I do have a picture of the hat and mitten set I knit for E:

Niece E's hat and mitten set, finished!!

The Wee Envelope sweater from a few posts back is for her sister-to-be (by sometime in early February). I also managed to start a knitting project for myself – Frisson, in an ages-old bamboo-blend sock yarn from my stash. I’m really enjoying it so far!

New year, new project (Frisson, out of some ages-old bamboo-blend sock yarn from my stash)

We only spent one night in Eau Claire. On the 3rd, we started our return trip, which I’ll save for my next post…it was quite the Odyssey!

Winter Break 2014, Part 2: Christmas


The day after the Solstice, we took off for Ohio to visit my husband’s family for Christmas. This time, we did a much better job of preparing M for the car trip! We gave her an “Imagination Patterns” set for Solstice, which were a lot of fun for her:

Working with her Imagination Patterns (our Solstice gift to her). #winterbreak2014

She doesn’t quite get that you’re supposed to make the pictures on the cards using the magnets, but she had fun making her own designs, like this “doghouse”:

She built a doghouse and was very excited about it! #winterbreak2014

We also did lots of running at every rest stop to help her burn off energy, and the result was a very good car nap:

Car nap, hooray! #winterbreak2014

During which time I made good progress on my niece’s mitten:

Nieceling S's mitten just needs a thumb (and a partner, of course!)

We had a whole bag of activities packed for M (including a cool binder of dry erase pages that I made for her!), but other than the Imagination Patterns, the two things she was most interested in were the Harold and the Purple Crayon videos we put on Andrew’s Nexus 7 tablet…

We set up a few of her favorite videos (eg Harold and the Purple Crayon) on A's Nexus 7. She's happy, so we're happy :) #winterbreak2014

…and the lacing cards (which were actually a gift from a friend for her 2nd birthday):

Lacing cards! #winterbreak2014

While in Ohio, we celebrated Christmas with my husband’s family, and M got to spend a lot of time with her cousin S (and in this photo, their auntie Xenia, as part of the “purple pants crew”):

The purple pants crew (M, S, and their great-auntie Xenia)

(M and her cousin were inadvertently very color-coordinated, in pink+black tops and purple bottoms!)

I gave S her hat and mitten set, which seemed to fit, and to be well-liked (and gave me a good chance to “test-knit” my own pattern!):

Hat and mittens for my niece, S. (I'll be making another set in purple for niece E.)

The day after Christmas was strangely warm, so we went to an awesome playground to burn off some energy, and didn’t even need to wear coats!

Me and my playground buddy.

(Ok, so we DID need to wear warm sweaters, but still!)

The next day, we headed up to Minnesota to celebrate New Years with my own family…but I’ll save that for my next post.

Winter Break 2014, Part 1: Solstice

Happy Solstice, everyone!

Our Solstice celebration this year was lovely and simple. The day before, I had M help me gather some pebbles (from our garden) to fill up leftover jelly jars…

Filling her jar, pebble by pebble.

…so that we could turn them into holders for the candles we hand-dipped at our friend’s house the previous weekend:

Candles. (We'll light them "for real" on the Solstice tomorrow, but someone was very insistent that we "test" them first.)

In future years, I’d love to do something with little handwritten paper messages that we feed to the little flames, but we decided that M would be much more ready for that in a year or so than she is now. So for this year, the candles just gave us light as we ate our meals together on the Solstice (and the night before, since a certain someone was very insistent that we “test” our candles before the big day!).

In the morning, we opened gifts, both from each other, and from extended family who’d sent them. M’s favorite gift was probably the (real, working) accordion that my mom’s parents sent her!

Her favorite Soltice gift came from my grandparents - a REAL (toddler-sized) accordion. Oh my!

We have a rule that we won’t have noisemaking toys in our house unless they are actual instruments that M has to work to play – so this fits the bill! (I don’t judge folks who have talking/noisy toys or anything like that – I just have sensory-integration issues, so noisy/flashy toys wreck me a bit. It’s self-preservation, is all!) I’m really excited for her, because she LOVES music and it makes me so happy that she’s starting to get a little instrument collection of her very own.

She also really loved the toys that came in the Little Pnuts subscription box that my brother and his wife got for her.

Working with the farm puzzle/playset that was part of her Little Pnuts shipment (thanks, Uncle Ryan and Aunt Jenny!)

The boxes are timed to arrive basically at each turn of the seasons, which is perfect for our season-celebrating little family. Such a thoughtful gift for her!

This was such a thoughtful gift to M from my brother and his family - an eco-friendly toy service that delivers a package each season (pretty much perfectly timed for our seasonal celebrations).

We also made cookies together. M got to use her new rolling pin (which she got for her birthday) and our snowflake-shaped cookie cutters (which she insisted were “star-shaped” – ok kiddo, that’s fine too!).

Making gingerbread snowflakes. #solstice

We dusted them with powdered sugar to make them a bit more “snow”-like (or “star”-like, for that matter):

First batch of gingerbread snowflakes. #solstice

We brought a whole bunch of these along with us to Ohio to share with family. We use this recipe, which gives a lovely intense gingerbread (and molasses) flavor, with a nice bite from the pepper. So good!

I hope you and your families had peaceful, joyful holidays!